Charlie Peña is an 18-year-old non-binary Mexican-American in Houston, Texas who is showing the world how to own your identity, unapologetically. The Cypress Falls High School senior shared photos of a magnificent Mexican dress they* got at the swap meet and people are living. Peña spoke to mitú about the response the tweet has received and the validation they hope others like them get from seeing their tweet.
*Peña asked mitú to use their preferred pronouns they/their/them for the story.
This is Charlie Peña with best friend and prom date Jenna.
“My original date could not make it so my best friend, Jenna, did a really cute proposal for me. I’m obsessed with RuPaul so it was cute,” Peña told mitú. “We were supposed to take pictures with our prom group but took so long to get ready. We ended up having to eat dinner at Taco Bell, which was totally fine.”
Peña recently went viral on Twitter with an unapologetic, non-binary, Chicanx pride post for prom.
fat bi non binary chicanx goes to prom 2k17 pic.twitter.com/GXauMsiC4x
— agua de coco (@wokemom) May 16, 2017
Peña told mitú that they only recently started to use the term non-binary to express their gender identity. They are still getting used to the term but they feel much more comfortable with it now then late last year when they first started to use the term.
But what does non-binary mean? Don’t worry. Peña has an explanation.
“Being non-binary means that I do not identify myself with the male/female binary. I am genderfluid, which means that my gender identity varies over time,” Peña told mitú. “I don’t conform with a certain set of pronouns, either. She/They/He, I don’t mind. However, that doesn’t mean that other people who identify as non-binary feel the same way. It all depends on the person and what they’re comfortable with.”
Peña also made an impact by channeling their Mexican culture via their prom dress which they got at a swap meet.
“A lot of kids at my school make fun of it for being ‘ghetto’ or ‘too chunti.’ I like to go because there’s a lot to look at, and honestly I can’t find good quality huaraches anywhere else,” Peña told mitú. “I remember walking around with my mom looking for a fruit stand and seeing the full dress on a mannequin. I looked at my mom and I told her, ‘That’s it, ese es mi vestido.’ I tried it on and I knew it was the one. I bought it on the spot.”
Peña admits that some people questioned whether it was a good idea to wear that dress to prom. Peña responded with a resounding “sí.”
And for Peña, it was all about owning up to their culture and loving everything that makes them them.
Although there are always haters, Peña garnered lots of support for her tweet.
— bruja lanii🔮 (@MaiLaniRivera) May 16, 2017
Peña told mitú that they were surprised at all the positive responses they got for their tweet. As for the occasional haters, they pay them no mind because they say they know their worth, their value, and it took them too long to get to the level of confidence they have to let some salty strangers bring them down.
Seriously, people could not get enough of Peña’s unapologetic proclamation to the Twitterverse.
— Pants! 🏳️🌈 (@mandapants1013) May 16, 2017
“[I’m] genuinely surprised more than anything,” they told mitú about their tweet going viral. “I hadn’t been feeling my best that day, so the responses were really reassuring.”
“I hope those like me can see me and feel represented in some way,” Peña told mitú.
— MO. (@MRHOLVRZ) May 16, 2017
Peña knows what it is like to not see yourself represented in media as non-binary and hopes that their tweet can help others find that validation.
Peña’s choice of dress is all about them showcasing what they find beautiful.
@wokemom ummm… A thousand times over YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS! You looked so beautiful, reppin our culture! 🇲🇽😍Estas Hermosa mija.
— LETY LO (@LETYLO1) May 17, 2017
“I find beauty in tradition. Although I loved the idea of getting super glam in a ball gown, it’s not really me. I like to honor my culture when it comes to events like this. We are living in times where our political climate is making it really difficult for Latinxs,” Peña told mitú. We are stigmatized in the media by our president. … We are people that deserve respect. By wearing the traditional dress that I did, I felt as if I was making that statement. I represent my people and our customs to make sure that we are seen.”